Rumor mill: Did Google Buy Vutool for Street-Level Photos?

Seattle Street-level Drive in Google EarthQuite a bit of stir in the rumor mill today thanks to a blog post by TechCrunch (TC) which speculates that Google purchased a startup called Vutool. According to the description at TC, it sounds like the company had developed technology for capturing street level imagery at all angles and other “intellectual property” for processing and displaying this information.
Microsoft a year ago released a technology preview (still working) of something like this for Windows Live Local which provides an interface allowing you to “drive” a car and look in different directions at streets in Seattle. Google Earth Blog demonstrated how you could do something similar in Google Earth by “driving” down 3D streets for cities with 3D buildings in Google Earth. But, it lacks the street-level photographs except for those integrated on 3D buildings with textures. However, a technology like what Vutool has described could be an awfully nice way to get photos for 3D building models… Hmmmmm. Microsoft already has access to technology which uses photography to rapidly grow its collection of 3D buildings with textures. Microsoft has invested tens of millions of dollars in the technology and hiring aerial photographers to take these “bird’s eye” views of buildings in cities. Vutools technology might actually help Google develop similar, or maybe even better, capabilities. So, maybe the rumors that Google bought them have some credibility.
Thanks to Matt for being the first of several to contact me about this.

About Frank Taylor

Frank Taylor started the Google Earth Blog in July, 2005 shortly after Google Earth was first released. He has worked with 3D computer graphics and VR for many years and was very impressed with this exciting product. Frank completed a 5.5 year circumnavigation of the earth by sailboat in June 2015 which you can read about at Tahina Expedition, and is a licensed pilot, backpacker, diver, and photographer.


  1. Michael Fagan says:

    Let’s not forget that, although now offline, A9 launched this in January 2005

  2. I was looking at TC post and I relized that the company was established by Sebastian Thurn the same guy “who WON” the DARPA grand challange on the desert.
    So they basically “he has” all technology sorted out = car tracking + 3d scanning with lidar lasers + camers + image processing + some serious AI.
    Check out his presentation at google
    I strongly belive its true as he has all good cards in his hand

  3. Jimmy_Lemon says:

    oooo I hope the rumour is true! that is the one thing I miss in GE.

Leave a Reply